[Tweeters] Otters

Jeff Gibson gibsondesign at msn.com
Tue Jul 8 10:48:46 PDT 2014

If you wanna see an Otter, Port Townsend is a pretty good place to be. A River Otter that is.
Many people, upon seeing an Otter in Puget Sound exclaim " hey, there's a Sea Otter!" but what they're seeing is a River Otter.
A few year ago, from the former Anchor Pub, I posted about the book I was never going to write, titled "The Sound and the Furry",( part of a 'nature bat's last' series), which was gonna be about "Sea Otters return to Puget Sound bent on revenge, using rocks to crack more than sea urchins". The revenge being for the many Sea Otters historically slaughtered by Russian, British , and American, greedy capitalist doodyheads. Sea Otters were almost totally wiped out in their whole range.
As usual, my editing skills kicked in after I hit the send button on that post. I realized that I didn't remember ever reading anything about Sea Otters living in Puget Sound in the first place. The following year we hosted a talk, sponsored by People for Puget Sound, by a fellow from NOAA who was doing a big Sea Otter study, and he did make the point that there seemed to be no evidence, biologically or in native lore, of Sea Otters ever having lived in Puget Sound and how interesting that was because there seems to be enough of the kelp bed habitat, and food sources they like around the Sound.
So if you wanna see a Sea Otter, go out to the North part of our Ocean Coast. Someplace like Cape Alava, and check the kelp beds.
Meanwhile, here in Port Townsend you have a pretty good chance of seeing a River Otter along the Sound shore - I've seen plenty without even trying.One dependable spot is the Marine Science Center at Fort Worden. I go there often.
The big Otter hang-out there is the small floating dock within the pier area. The evidence is clear - lots of Otter poop. And leftovers. Yesterday morning I found a freshly eviscerated Pigeon Guillemot - blood still bright - there, along with the head and a few entrails of a big ol' Sculpin. Last weeks menu items were; some other sort of bird (only fresh blood and a few feathers left), and as evidenced by remaining heads, another big Sculpin, a fair sized Rockcod, and a Sand Shark (dogfish) which must have been about two feet long before being eaten. This mornings carcass was what I think was a former Lingcod - head about 6 inches long. At first I presumed that the Otters caught all these fish but maybe they are being fed carcasses by friendly Marine Science, or whatever, people. I'll have to check.
One morning I was lucky enough to see the Otters on this dock (five of them) just before they dispersed into the very clear waters within the pier. It was cool to see them zooming around the piers and neato eelgrass beds there. It seemed that with every dive the otters came up with something to crunch on.
Otters are prodigious poopers, and from what I've read, digest their food in about an hour. In the panoply of poop, that of the Otter can be pretty stinky. Pre- Anchor Pub, my wife and I leased a floating boathouse on the Everett waterfront for a year - the dock there seeming to be a major Otter latrine- despite tenants efforts, the dock was piled with fresh plop every morning, and lots of it.
It sure would've been something to see how an Otter caught a Guillemot!

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